I don’t really have an exercise plan. Does that surprise you?
It may seem a little odd, considering I’m a registered dietitian who understands the health benefits of physical activity quite well, so, allow me to explain.
I’ve noticed that almost everyone feels good after exercise but the same just doesn’t seem to be the case beforehand. We hear, “Just do it, you’ll feel great afterward!”
(Of course, this is totally true, you will probably feel better after doing something active.)
But, personally, forced activity was leading to feelings of literal dread around upcoming gym sessions and training runs. Often, exercise just felt like another task that I had to cross off my list before I could move on with the rest of my day. The problem was that I used to subscribe to the idea that without an explicit plan for physical activity, I would most certainly just turn into a giant couch potato. I felt like I needed the rules and the structure of a preordained plan.
Sound familiar? I talked a lot about the myth that we need rules to thrive in my post about why I stopped offering meal plans. Because in reality, my fitness plan was just turning me into a sad person who didn’t want to do anything.
Turns out, letting go of rules and focusing on what feels good isn’t just related to food. If your fitness plan isn’t exciting and/or enjoyable, naturally you aren’t going to want to do it, so you probably won’t, leading to a vicious cycle of guilt and shame.
I followed these five steps to transform into a person who actually enjoys movement:
Change your mindset.
Do you “run off calories” or exercise to “fix” something about your body? This is so negative! Try shifting your focus to consider all of the things your body can do, instead of what it can’t do or what it looks like. Consider which activities make you feel strongest, happiest and most energized.
Stop doing anything you don’t love.
Eventually, I realized that I actually hated going to the gym. I have also since let go of long distance running and other high intensity activities (for now) because I just wasn’t enjoying them. Worse, they were giving me bad vibes about all types of physical activity, even the ones I actually did enjoy! It was definitely time to let that negative energy go.
Try something new.
I think I was hitting the gym and running hard because part of me felt like less intense forms of exercise “didn’t really count.” Have you ever felt this way? For me, it only led to less activity in general. “Yoga doesn’t count, so why bother?”
After expanding my definition of movement to include all if it’s equally wonderful types, I realized that I actually looked forward to yoga, riding my bike, hiking, and walking. And of course, these forms of movement totally count.
Take it outside.
I might be biased here because this is just what I love…but you gotta try moving your activity outdoors! I know I feel so much happier and more relaxed when I do. There’s just something about the fresh air and the views, plus, heading outside could even motivate you exercise more often too.
Riding my bike to and from errands, walking in nature, and hiking on the weekends are some of my favorite ways to stay active without a structured plan.
Rest when you need it.
Constantly feeling sore, exhausted, and overworked is a sure way to intensify your brain’s negative connections with physical activity. Life is so much better once you fully accept that a night of Netflix and couch-sitting can be just as strengthening (and often much more nourishing) than a pre-scripted fitness plan could ever be.
What are your main physical activity motivators? What are your favorites ways to be active? Do you enjoy exercising indoors or outdoors? Do you have a fitness plan in place or do you prefer to go by feeling? What’s your favorite way to practice rest?